David Brakke on Gnosticism and the Gospel of Thomas

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Ken Olson
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David Brakke on Gnosticism and the Gospel of Thomas

Post by Ken Olson »

I’d like to recommend the audiobook Gnosticism: From Nag Hammadi to the Gospel of Judas by David Brakke (Professor of History, Ohio State University) from The Teaching Company's Great Courses Plus series.

https://www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/gno ... l-of-judas

The audiobook is a bit pricey to buy, but many libraries have it (and others in the Great Courses series), and I believe it's available from Audible for those who are subscribers.

I found Brakke especially helpful for thinking about the relationship between Thomas and Gnosticism (I gave an SBL paper called Five Theses on the Gospel of Thomas and the first two theses were to distinguish between capital G Gnosticism and small g gnosticism, based on Brakke) and for lecture 10 on "Re-unifying the Self" in Thomas. I'm including some pics from the relevant pages from the course guidebook (which is sort of the Cliff's notes version of the full lecture) on those topics. The guidebook used to be freely available online, but unfortunately that does not seem to be the case anymore.

Best,

Ken

P.S. Happy birthday, Peter!
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Last edited by Ken Olson on Sun May 02, 2021 6:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Ken Olson
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Re: David Brakke on Gnosticism and the Gospel of Thomas

Post by Ken Olson »

Sorry, I could load only three pages for the previous post. Here are the pages on Thomas and Gnosticism.
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Last edited by Ken Olson on Sun May 02, 2021 6:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Peter Kirby
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Re: David Brakke on Gnosticism and the Gospel of Thomas

Post by Peter Kirby »

Ken Olson wrote: Sat May 01, 2021 4:28 pm P.S. Happy birthday, Peter!
Thanks!
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Re: David Brakke on Gnosticism and the Gospel of Thomas

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Re: David Brakke on Gnosticism and the Gospel of Thomas

Post by mlinssen »

Ken Olson wrote: Sat May 01, 2021 4:30 pm Sorry, I could load only three pages for the previous post. here are the pages on Thomas and Gnosticism.

Brakke 63.jpg
Brakke 64.jpg
This actually is a good part of what Brakke says. Concisely put, Thomas can't really be identified with Gnosticism, but he does teach salvation through gnosis
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Re: David Brakke on Gnosticism and the Gospel of Thomas

Post by Secret Alias »

"Gnosticism" is a most meaningless term. It really serves to distinguish true religiosity from superstition, an awareness of being touched by religious meaning. Not religious meaning. That can be apprehended unconsciously. Awareness of the process of acquiring meaning.
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Re: David Brakke on Gnosticism and the Gospel of Thomas

Post by perseusomega9 »

I have the Great Courses subscription with my Prime account and am almost finished with Brakke's course. It is very well done.
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Re: David Brakke on Gnosticism and the Gospel of Thomas

Post by davidmartin »

It's not a bad summary but he's over simplifying it as well

Firstly, he overplays the Platonic connection. The simple idea that we are eternal souls is far more ancient than Plato and there would need to be more meat to make a direct philosophical connection hold water

Secondly the dualism between spirit and matter is unclear in Thomas. Some sayings such as the 'split a piece of wood and i am there' question it. At some points the dualism is between heaven and earth not spirit and matter. Even the more dualistic sayings in Thomas are not beyond what is found in the new testament if one chose to do the same thing with them.. a clear spirit/matter duality could be claimed for them as well. Does Thomas stop at a spirit/matter duality or go further? It goes further

Thirdly, salvation in Thomas is not directly equated with self realisation but requires recognition and seeking for the divine. If this latter element isn't removed then salvation in Thomas requires seeking something other than one's self

The author is making Thomas fit the paradigms we are familiar with, and yeah he says some interesting stuff but it's incomplete and can't really Pidgeon hole Thomas into the comfortable category that i think he is attempting
Ken Olson
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Re: David Brakke on Gnosticism and the Gospel of Thomas

Post by Ken Olson »

davidmartin wrote: Mon May 03, 2021 4:22 am It's not a bad summary but he's over simplifying it as well
That is the raison d'être of bullet points.

Have you listened to the full lecture that's being summarized, let alone the lecture series?
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Re: David Brakke on Gnosticism and the Gospel of Thomas

Post by andrewcriddle »

The Gospel of Thomas clearly requires interpretation.
These are the secret sayings that the living Jesus spoke and Didymos Judas Thomas recorded.

1. And he said, "Whoever discovers the interpretation of these sayings will not taste death."
There may be a difference between the plain meaning of Thomas, which I agree is not Gnostic in the narrow sense, and the way the original authors of Thomas wished enlightened readers to understand it.

Andrew Criddle
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